Fresh off of announcing her departure from NBC’s “TODAY,” Jenna Wolfe made a stop at her alma mater to talk about her career, crack jokes and motivate students.
Wolfe, who graduated from Binghamton University in 1996, came to campus as a part of the Cool Connections, Hot Alumni speaker series. Her talk focused on her career path after leaving BU, as well as what’s in store for her in the future.
“I knew very early on exactly what I wanted to do for a living,” she explained. “I was going to be a news reporter.”
As a junior and senior, Wolfe interned at the local FOX affiliate. According to her, she forged the dates on her internship application because by the time she transferred to BU from SUNY Geneseo, the application had closed.
For the next two years, she whited-out and backdated English department forms so that she could keep going back to the news station.
“I was ballsy; I had chutzpah,” Wolfe said. “I learned everything there was to learn [at FOX] and I put myself in a really, really great position to be able to start the rest of my life.”
However, despite her efforts, Wolfe’s life did not go according to plan after graduation. When she went to the affiliate and asked for a job they told her that there was no news reporter position available, but that there was an opening in sports. Wolfe took it.
“I pretty much learned on the job,” she said. “I studied for it just as if I was studying for the SATs.”
Her studying paid off. Wolfe ended up working in sports for 12 years, with stints in Binghamton, Rochester and Philadelphia before eventually moving to New York City where she got jobs at MSG and then WABC-TV.
In mid-2007, she got the call that started her on the path toward becoming a household name. “TODAY” loved Wolfe’s personality, and they wanted her on the air despite the fact that they didn’t cover sports on their morning news broadcast. She accepted the job, explaining that she felt she had done everything she wanted to do in sports.
“I looked at [my resume] and said ‘I love this body of work. But it’s time to get challenged again.’”
From hosting “TODAY” on the weekends to zooming down the world’s longest water slide as the show’s lifestyle and fitness correspondent, Wolfe was always busy at NBC.
“It’s an incredible job,” she said. “If anyone has an opportunity to either intern or work there, or walk by there, or Google it — whatever you can do — be a part of it. Morning television at the network level is exactly as scary and as clichéd and as exciting as you think it is.”
But after eight and a half years, Wolfe is moving on again.
“It gets routine if you do something too often,” she said. “It’s time to go do something different. Not better, not worse, but just something different.”
She explained to the audience the importance of straying from the beaten path, encouraging everyone to do something new and scary every single day.
“You may have regrets, you may feel like you made mistakes,” she said. “But I promise you, that’s the life that’s going to be so much more rewarding and fulfilling at the very end.”
Now that she is out from under the NBC News umbrella, Wolfe has found new freedoms. She said that she is going to be doing a few segments for “Dr. Oz,” give empowering speeches to young girls and design workout plans for health companies. Still, the future is not totally clear.
“There’s only so much that I can control,” she said. “So I prepare myself as well as I can prepare myself. And all of the sudden, I think, someone may call. And when they do, I’m gonna be ready.”